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When considering natural treatments for erectile dysfunction, there are a number of good and bad products on the market for consumers. Zinc is an element of great physiological importance but could it also help improve erectile dysfunction in patients?

Erectile dysfunction is the inability for men to initiate and maintain an erection [1]. Multiple co-morbidities can predispose patients to get erectile dysfunction. Some of the more common chronic conditions would be diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and various stress disorders like anxiety and depression [2]. In medicine, two types of therapy are typically used to treat this erectile dysfunction. Physicians could choose to target the chronic conditions and improve therapies to reduce secondary effects. Controlling blood sugar, blood pressure or helping patients manage stress are all potential avenues to lead to symptom resolution [3]. On the other hand, patients could also choose a quick-acting solution like taking a pharmaceutical supplement to help synthesize nitric oxide (NO) [4]. This compound is imperative in dilating blood vessels to allow blood to collect in the penis to sustain erections. The most common drug on the market for this goes by the trademark Viagra [5]. Unfortunately, this drug is not for everyone, and it has the potential to interfere with many other medications that a patient may already be taking. Some alternative options come by way of natural supplements for erectile dysfunction. Some of the more successful vitamins and dietary supplements for ED we covered included horny goat weed and how it can treat erectile dysfunction or how vitamin D can treat erectile dysfunction. Nevertheless, we have also found that some compounds are untested and potentially dangerous, so it is important to avoid them at all costs. Herbal Viagra can be one of these potentially dangerous remedies for erectile dysfunction. In this article, we will focus on another supplement for erectile dysfunction that has been linked to being a potential treatment for erectile dysfunction: zinc. The question is: do zinc supplements for erectile dysfunction work?  

What is Zinc? 

Saying zinc is essential for our physiology is an understatement due to the numerous processes this element has involvement in. It is believed that zinc plays a crucial role in the activation of over 300 enzymes in the human body and unfortunately, deficiencies in this element are quite common [6]. It is currently estimated that about 17.2 percent of the global population is at risk for insufficient zinc intake [7]. When zinc is deficient, patients at younger ages are more sensitive to physiological alterations. Young patients still in puberty can expect to see slower growth in gonadal organs (sex organs) and have stunned growth, which can reduce sex hormones overall and predispose patients to sexual dysfunction. As adults, there seems to be a link between low zinc levels and sexual dysfunction. Zinc is also essential in our immune system and any deficiency essentially shuts off half of our only protection against pathogens. These patients will contract sicknesses easily and have some chronic conditions that could also cause erectile dysfunction. [8] Thankfully, most staple foods in the Western diet have naturally high levels of zinc. Some of the most robust foods include low-fat beef, ground beef, dark meat in poultry, egg yolks and some types of cheeses [9]. 

It is less likely for a Westerner to have zinc deficits compared to those living in the Eastern world as a result.  

Can Zinc Supplements Actually Help My Erectile Dysfunction? 

Now that we have established that zinc is imperative in numerous reactions throughout the body, let's see if you should consider including this as one of the vitamins and dietary supplements for ED. In one study, patients suffering from chronic hypertension were examined due to sexual dysfunction. Hydrochlorothiazide is a common anti-hypertensive agent that is commonly used but it depletes zinc from the body as a side effect and patients also self-report higher incidences of sexual dysfunction when on this medication. Patients that were elderly or overweight were most likely to report sexual dysfunction when taking this zinc-wasting medication. 

After supplementation of 500 milligrams of zinc daily for 30 days, zinc levels improved slightly and sexual dysfunction resolved in 5 of the 22 patients in the group completely.[10] Based on this study, there is enough evidence to highlight a link between zinc levels and sexual function, but it is still too ambiguous to proclaim this to be a "wonder drug" to include as a natural supplement for erectile dysfunction just yet. 

In another group of patients suffering from zinc deficiencies, erectile dysfunction was a common complaint among these patients. Patients on hemodialysis due to chronic kidney failure are likely to have depleted levels of many electrolytes. In one study, 100 patients on hemodialysis had their levels of zinc, testosterone, and sex hormones FSH and LH checked before and after zinc supplementation. Patients were instructed to consume 250 milligrams daily of zinc sulfate supplement for 6 weeks. At the conclusion of the study, researchers determined that although there was not a significant alteration in FSH levels, patients noticed a significant difference in LH, testosterone and zinc levels after supplementation. [11] Patients reported improvements in sexual function, but a concrete connection could not be established.

After our investigations, unfortunately, we still lack a clear connection between zinc supplementation and erectile dysfunction.

Based on the benefits of this supplement, it appears that patients will clearly benefit from supplementation if levels of zinc are low. In North America, it may be less common due to diets so taking zinc may not necessarily help patients who already have adequate levels of zinc if their levels are within normal limits. Many studies prove that zinc has at least an indirect impact on erectile dysfunction and supplementation will improve in those patients so I would advise considering zinc supplementation for erectile dysfunction if it is determined that your plasma levels of zinc are low. 

Taking zinc supplementation is a "low risk, high reward" scenario so patients may benefit from other physiological improvements even if their erectile dysfunction may not be completed alleviated.